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Notre Dame has life, BU is better and UVM remains hot away from home

Notre Dame was just about a minute away from another lost weekend in Hockey East play. But then Bryan Rust saved the day, which leads the three things I learned this weekend.

1. Don’t write Notre Dame’s obituary yet

This hasn’t exactly been a welcome with open arms to Hockey East thus far for the Fighting Irish. And this past weekend had all the earmarks of being another difficult, frustrating weekend. Notre Dame hosted Maine, a team that entered the weekend without a road win. Friday night, the Irish spotted Maine a 2-0 lead. But what looked like back-to-back extra attacker goals had seemingly drawn ND even with about half a minute remaining. A controversial video review ended up negating the goal (I’ll admit, I haven’t seen the no-goal yet, so I can’t comment on the call) and making the Irish a loser for the third straight league game.

On Saturday, it seemed like the Irish were again headed for another 2-1 loss until Bryan Rust scored not once, but twice in 24 seconds to steal victory from the jaws of defeat. The win may breathe some new life into Notre Dame which is in danger of having to head on the road for a single-elimination opening round playoff game in Hockey East.

2. BU seems remarkably improved

The wins haven’t come BU’s way of late, winless (0-2-2) in its last four. But this BU team is playing much better hockey of late, taking BC to the wire in last Monday’s Beanpot before earning a hard-fought tie against a red-hot Massachusetts-Lowell team. What seems most improved for the Terriers is the team’s defensive play. Despite allowing 32 and 35 shots, respectively, over the last two games, the number of grade ‘A’ chances seem significantly reduced, bringing some relief to goaltenders Matt O’Connor and Sean Maguire, both of whom have been BU’s best players since returning from the holiday break.

3. Vermont playing role of road warriors

The Vermont Catamounts played some impressive hockey during a 9-game homestand that wraparound around the holiday break. But when you play nine-in-a-row at home, there is a stark reality that you’ll likely have to play a long road-swing. That eight-game road trip ended Saturday night in style as the Catamounts finished off a weekend sweep of New Hampshire to move into solo seventh place but only three points behind third place Northeastern. Vermont won four of its last five games on the road trip and went 4-2-0 in Hockey East on the swing. If there is any team to keep an eye on in the bottom half of the standings right now, it’s Vermont.

Hockey East picks: Feb. 7-11

Last week, I gained another game on the old man. And seeing as this is his last week picking before season ending surgery, I’m curious to see whether or not Dave will go completely the opposite of me in hopes I tank so he can improve his winning percentage.

(Dave’s special note: I’m loathe to intrude on Jim’s introduction, but since this is my swan song for a while, I have to say thanks to all the friends and fans who’ve sent me their support. You all are the best. Thank you!)

Dave last week: 5-2-1
Jim last week: 6-1-1
Dave’s record-to-date: 119-65-23
Jim’s record-to-date: 124-60-23

Here are this week’s picks:

Friday, Feb. 7

Merrimack at Boston College
Jim’s pick: Let’s start with the fact that Merrimack is on the road. Add in the fact that the opponent is BC. This is a slam dunk.
BC 5, MC 2
Dave’s pick: I’m down by five and have to pull my goalie, but not against a team that hasn’t lost since November.
BC 5, MC 2

Massachusetts-Lowell at Boston University
Jim’s pick: BU put forth an impressive effort in the Beanpot. But having watched the way Lowell manhandled them territorially three weeks ago, this one is all River Hawks.
UML 4, BU 1
Dave’s pick: Again, I have to agree, although I think it’ll be closer than Jim thinks. BU will play well, but not well enough to win.
UML 3, BU 2

Maine at Notre Dame
Jim’s pick: Given the way Maine has played away from home, I can’t pick the Black Bears at all this weekend.
ND 3, Maine 2
Dave’s pick: Here’s a pull-the-goalie pick. I suspect Maine will pick up its first road win this weekend, and was hoping Jim picked a split so I could go in the opposite direction. But he didn’t cooperate, so I’m forced to pick the Black Bears to seize their first two road wins of the year.
Maine 3, ND 2

Massachusetts at Northeastern
Jim’s pick: Maybe NU gets caught looking ahead to the Beanpot final. But I doubt it.
NU 4, UMass 2
Dave’s pick: The more I watch the Huskies, the more impressed I become. They’ll come to play and will win.
NU 4, UMass 1

Vermont at New Hampshire
Jim’s pick: This is the series of the weekend. And with New Hampshire being hot, it’s hard to pick against them at home.
UNH 3, UVM 2
Dave’s pick: Pull-the-goalie pick number two. I’d naturally be going with a UNH sweep, having learned my lesson from last weekend. But it’s time to gamble, and this isn’t a bad one. I’ve underestimated the Catamounts all season long, and they’ve pulled off road splits the last two weekends against Northeastern and BU. I’ll need them to make it three weeks in a row and a split the right way.
UVM 3, UNH 2

Saturday, Feb. 8

Maine at Notre Dame
Jim’s pick: Again, going with the Irish based solely on Maine’s road futility.
ND 4, Maine 2
Dave’s pick: How can a team be almost undefeated at home and winless on the road? Time to gamble again on the Black Bears.
Maine 3, ND 2

Massachusetts-Lowell at Massachusetts
Jim’s pick: Lowell wins to claim the Alumni Cup.
UML 4, UMass 2
Dave’s pick: Agreed. The River Hawks complete the sweep and move into sole possession of second place, which is where they belong.
UML 4, UMass 2

Vermont at New Hampshire
Jim’s pick: Any faithful reader knows I hate picking splits. But I really feel UVM will have another happy bus ride home.
UVM 3, UNH 2
Dave’s pick: I’m happily going with UNH here, hoping that my version of the split is the right one.
UNH 4, UVM 2

Monday, Feb. 10

62nd Beanpot (at TD Garden)
Boston University vs. Harvard (Consolation game)
Jim’s pick: It’s been a tough season for BU, but I don’t see another last place Beanpot finish in the cards.
BU 4, Harvard 3
Dave’s pick: The Crimson seniors could finish their collegiate careers with four Beanpot consolation wins, which may be as hollow of an accomplishment as there is in college hockey. But I don’t think so.
BU 4, Harvard 1

Boston College vs. Northeastern (Championship game)
Jim’s pick: If I had to make this pick 10 times, I’d pick BC 9. This is the one where I pick NU.
NU 4, BC 3 (OT)
Dave’s pick: I’d need a gun, literal or figurative, pointed at my head to pick against BC right now. This is easiest of the five picks I’ve differed with Jim on.  Northeastern has impressed and it’ll be a great story if the Huskies win, but I just can’t see it.
BC 3, NU 2

Tuesday, Feb. 11

Connecticut at Providence
Jim’s pick: This should be an easy one for the Friars, but no game vs. AHA teams has been easy for Hockey East this season.
PC 3, UConn 2
Dave’s pick: It’s hard to understand Hockey East’s struggles with Atlantic Hockey (relative to those of other conferences), but I’d be stunned if they extended to a Friars loss.
PC 4, UConn 1

Streaking Eagles, sweeps and a PairWise party

Seeing as I don’t care about Bruno Mars, I’ll take this opportunity at halftime of the Super Bowl to tell you about three things I do care about that I learned this past weekend:

1. Eagles, Gaudreau streaking towards a title

I was a tad bit concerned on Friday night that two of the nation’s longest streaks might end. But both Boston College and forward/Hobey favorite Johnny Gaudreau both kept streaks alive. BC eked out a 2-0 win at Providence to stretch its unbeaten streak to 12 games. And a late third-period insurance goal by Johnny Gaudreau extended the forward’s point streak to a nation’s best 21 games. Both look like they are closing in on hardware as BC has created measurable distance over second-place Northeastern and Massachusetts-Lowell for the regular-season crown (eight point lead, six games remaining). And Gaudreau continues to shine, each day closing in on an easy-vote Hobey Baker.

2. Sweeps follow splits

A week after five different Hockey East series ended in splits, both two-game series played this weekend were sweeps. UMass Lowell beat Merrimack back-to-back nights in a home-and-home series while New Hampshire took two from Notre Dame at home. Both teams that came out on top (both hampered by significant injuries) took major steps forward. The River Hawks are now tied with Northeastern for second place in Hockey East with a game in hand (and they’ll need to come out ahead as NU owns the tie breaker). New Hampshire, meanwhile, moved into fourth place, a key spot that could translate not only into a first-round bye in the Hockey East playoffs, but also a home ice spot in the quarterfinals.

3. Pairwise still looking positive

When the Pairwise premiered this season and six Hockey East teams were above college hockey’s version of the Mendoza Line, we all knew it would be far-fetched to see all six make the NCAA field. Personally, I felt that the remaining league play would likely mean at least half of the eight Hockey East teams in contention for NCAA bids would fall out quickly. But three weeks later, I’m still very optimistic that Hockey East will be extremely well represented in the NCAA field. BC and Lowell are quickly working towards becoming NCAA locks, while Northeastern and Providence are still in the top 11. Even though Notre Dame fell out of the top 15, New Hampshire jumped into the 14th spot. Plenty of hockey to play, but I really like the way the Pairwise is trending.

Hockey East picks – Jan. 31 – Feb. 3

The good news is that I played Comeback Kid last week, going 6-0 on Saturday after a disastrous 0-5 Friday. The bad news is that I lost a game to Jim in the process.

Dave last week: 6-5-0
Jim last week: 7-4-0
Dave’s record-to-date: 114-63-22
Jim’s record-to-date: 118-59-22

Here are this week’s picks:

Friday, Jan. 31

Boston College at Providence 
Dave’s pick: In this marquee match-up of the weekend, I’m picking BC. I’m going with the Eagles against all comers until further notice.
BC 4, PC 2
Jim’s pick: This should be a tight game but the way Providence gave up goals last weekend, I’m not sure that will be true.
BC 5, PC 3

Merrimack at Massachusetts-Lowell
Dave’s pick: Will the River Hawks get any of their walking wounded back? For one game, at least, it won’t matter. They’ll win either way.
UML 4, MC 2
Jim’s pick: I think this will be a tough game for the shorthanded River Hawks, though believe they can win.
UML 2, MC 1

Boston University at Massachusetts
Dave’s pick: It’s hard to see either of these teams avoiding the bottom-six, one-game play-in round of this year’s Hockey East playoffs. Tough times for both teams. I’ll go with home ice deciding this result, leaving BU 0-9-0 on the road.
UMass 4, BU 3
Jim’s pick: Can this finally be BU’s road win? They have been a better Friday team than Saturday of late.
BU 3, UMass 2

Notre Dame at New Hampshire
Dave’s pick: By far, the toughest picks this week are this series. Call me stubborn, but I still see the Irish putting on a stretch run surge. I think UNH will lose a game it would have won with Trevor van Riemsdyk and Grayson Downing in the lineup.
ND 3, UNH 2 (OT)
Jim’s pick: I’m picking the Wildcats at home, at least on Friday.
UNH 4, ND 3

Saturday, Feb. 1

Notre Dame at New Hampshire
Dave’s pick: This series really has split written all over it, but I’m going with an Irish sweep even though I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Wildcats do the deed instead.
ND 4, UNH 3 (OT)
Jim’s pick: I just don’t see a sweep in this game, as Dave said.
ND 3, UNH 1

Massachusetts-Lowell at Merrimack
Dave’s pick: I’d love to make this call after I saw who was in the lineup because Merrimack is a tough opponent in its barn. I’m guessing that two of the River Hawks injured last week are back and Lowell earns an important sweep.
UML 3, MC 2
Jim’s pick: As great as Merrimack has been at home of late, Lowell has always played Merrimack tough at Lawler.
UML 3, MC 2

Monday, Feb. 3

Beanpot

Harvard vs. Northeastern
Dave’s pick: Have I ever picked Harvard to win in the Beanpot? Even a single game? Perhaps not, in which case I thank the Crimson for fattening up my lifetime picks record.
NU 5, HU 2
Jim’s pick: On paper this says NU all the way. But we know that never matters in a Beanpot. Still, I’m picking the Huskies.
NU 4, HU 3

Boston University vs. Boston College
Dave’s pick: This is about as lopsided as me versus a drumstick on Thanksgiving. The Terriers may have historically used their Beanpot magic in contests like this, but they’re 1-8-1 since the start of December and BC stands atop Hockey East at 11-1-1.
BC 5, BU 2
Jim’s pick: What Dave said.
BC 6, BU 3

Quizzing the coaches as the Beanpot approaches

beanpot Quizzing the coaches as the Beanpot approaches

Boston College has won the last four Beanpot titles, including in 2011 when Brian Gibbons held the prize (photo: Melissa Wade).

BOSTON – It’s one of the great traditions of college hockey: The calendar turns to February, and we turn our attention to the Beanpot.

It is without a doubt the most unique in-season tournament in college hockey. The event serves as a collective two-week homecoming for alumni from the four schools and a launching pad for the final month of the regular season.

Love it or hate it, the Beanpot grips the sporting consciousness in Boston for two weeks.

The festivities officially got under way on Tuesday, when all four head coaches (Ted Donato of Harvard, Jim Madigan of Northeastern, David Quinn of Boston University and Jerry York of Boston College), their team captains, and members of the media gathered at TD Garden for the annual pre-tournament luncheon.

We took the opportunity to ask each coach the same set of questions, to compare how each views his team’s performance to date and what will be the keys to victory over the next two weeks:

USCHO: If you could describe your season to date in one word, what would it be and why?

Donato: Close. In our league, we’ve lost a lot of close games. We’re learning how to win. Eight out of 10 losses have been by one goal. We’re very close.

Madigan: Resilient. It’s a team that was faced with some obstacles early. From the preseason poll, people from outside didn’t believe we could win. When we got into the season, guys worked hard and showed a lot of resiliency in games. It’s been borne into their approach this season.

Quinn: Inconsistent. When we’re good, we can be pretty good, but when we’re bad, we can be pretty bad. I think a lot of it has to do with youth — nine freshmen in the lineup every night. Not only are we young in class, but their ages too: We don’t have a bunch of 20-year old freshmen.

York: Two words — more cohesive. I think we’re playing better as a team. We stress all the time that the team that plays best [each] night will win the game. Records don’t matter. That’s our mind-set.

USCHO: Give us an outlook of your team’s chances for the tournament. What’s the one thing that needs to go right for you to win?

Donato: When you play in this atmosphere and want to have success, goaltending is a key for any possible championship.

Madigan: Goaltending. It’s a short tournament. Any team I’ve been on that has won this tournament — it’s been three — we’ve had great goaltending. It can be a cliché, but you’re talking about two games. If you get great goaltending, you build momentum that way, and only need a couple of goals to win.

Quinn: We’re going to have to play simple hockey. We get into trouble when we try to play special hockey and make special plays. If we can manage to keep things simple for 60 minutes, we give ourselves a chance night-in, night-out.

York: Discipline. Not just in penalties, but defensive zone coverage, discipline to be in the right position for yourself, [line] changes … anything that involves doing the right thing at the right time.

USCHO: If there’s an X factor, or perhaps a story that we haven’t heard of yet that might emerge from your team in this tournament, what do you think it’ll be?

Donato: Offensively, we have another gear that we haven’t gotten to yet. We’re a skilled, fast team, and we’re close to being an explosive team offensively. Hopefully we’ll be able to have things clicking for this Beanpot.

Madigan: It’ll be some of the secondary scoring, which we’re just starting to get.

Quinn: I’m going to say Robbie Baillargeon. He was great on Friday (vs. Vermont). Maybe the Baillargeon-[Danny] O’Regan-[Evan] Rodrigues line. Hopefully if Rodrigues is healthy — he’s still not quite there yet — I’m anxious to see what that line can do.

York: I’d like to see more balanced scoring from our club. We’re getting a lot of goals from the same players. That could put us over the top. It might be a defenseman or a forward, but I’d like that to happen. They don’t necessarily have to put up big numbers, but winning their shifts on the ice is one of our goals.

USCHO: One last “one word” question: What one word would you use to describe the Beanpot, what it means to you or your club?

Donato: Excitement.

Madigan: Magical.

Quinn: Special.

York: Exciting.

Splits across the league and disappointments

These  are the three things I think I learned this week.

1. Four points can’t get any harder than this.

Coaches have long bemoaned the difficulty of getting four points against any Hockey East opponent, regardless of position in the standings.

Well, this weekend became their quintessential example. All five league series ended in splits. (With an 11-team league, someone has got to be the odd man out and this time it was Boston College, which defeated Penn State in its lone contest.)

Arguably, the scheduling helped produce splits.  Three of the five series were of the home-and-home variety and matched teams closely positioned in the standings: Providence vs. Massachusetts-Lowell, Maine vs. New Hampshire and Merrimack vs. Massachusetts.

The other two series involved teams with a sizeable gap in their records but both of those two-game sets were held at the barn of the school lower in the standings: Northeastern at Notre Dame and Vermont at Boston University.

All that said, it’s been a long time (as far as I can recall) since every single series resulted in a split.

2. Maybe Lowell simply isn’t as good as I’ve thought.

The River Hawks looked so dominant last year once the first 10 or so games were out of the way. And with almost everyone coming back this season, they were an obvious pick to again be one of the league’s top teams.

I’ve been waiting and waiting for them to hit their stride this year and perform like last season’s edition, but I’m wondering if perhaps that just isn’t going to happen.

To be clear, splitting in a home-and-home with Providence is no embarrassment. In fact, it’s a pretty predictable outcome. And Lowell is still ninth in the PairWise.

But the way the River Hawks lost at Providence on Friday is a concern. Leading 4-2 with eight minutes left in regulation, they gave up three goals in less than four minutes. And not one of them was a power-play goal.

Three even-strength goals in the latter half of the third period to blow a two-goal lead? The River Hawks?  And Connor Hellebuyck (who didn’t give up more than three goals in any contest last year following his inaugural game) surrendering five to a team not named BC?

I’d have bet the ranch against that happening.

3. Maybe Notre Dame isn’t as good as I’ve thought and Northeastern definitely is better.

I’ve said it before (and then picked them to lose), but the Huskies have earned a ton of respect. They’re in second place and tied for seventh in the PairWise. They win at home (6-3-1) and on the road (8-4-1).

For the second time in as many weeks, they’ve won while getting outshot by a considerable margin. On Friday, 15th-ranked Notre Dame outshot them 30-14, but the Huskies did more than prevail, shutting out the Irish, 4-0, in their own barn.

For Notre Dame, I’m feeling the same concerns I have about Lowell.  Last season, the Irish finished second in the CCHA and then won the league tournament.

This year, though, they’re still under .500 within Hockey East. I was expecting a contender.  Yes, they’ve suffered injuries during key stretches, but that’s true of just about everyone. (See New Hampshire beating Maine on Friday without Trevor van Riemsdyk and Grayson Downing.) And yes, they’re still 12th in the PairWise due to strong nonconference results.

But we’re getting to the point where expectations based on last year’s results no longer make sense.

Hockey East picks – Jan. 24-25

I’ve closed to within three after being down by five a few weeks ago. Here’s hoping I pick up two more this week.

I’m making some risky picks, so if they don’t work out, I’ll just claim my anesthesiologist got to me early.

Dave last week: 10-3-2
Jim last week: 9-4-2
Dave’s record-to-date: 108-58-22
Jim’s record-to-date: 111-55-22

Here are this week’s picks:

Friday, Jan. 24

Massachusetts-Lowell at Providence
Dave’s pick: The only sane pick in this home-and-home series is to go with the home team each night. But when have I ever been called sane? My gut tells me that Lowell’s strong stretch run begins this weekend. And from an analytic side, I think that Lowell’s league-best defense and Providence’s league-worst power play proves to be a toxic combination for the Friars.
UML 2, PC 1 (OT)
Jim’s pick: I’m actually going to go with Dave on this one. Lowell’s defense has been pretty incredible in recent weeks. The question is whether or not the offense can come alive. I think it can.
UML 3, PC 1

Vermont at Boston University
Dave’s pick: BU has the league’s worst team defense ranking? (Other than UMass, no other team is even close.) Say it ain’t so.
UVM 4, BU 2
Jim’s pick: This BU team is so damaged by injuries that I can’t pick for them even at home.
UVM 3, BU 2

Northeastern at Notre Dame
Dave’s pick: The Huskies have been playing well and are 7-3-1 on the road, but I think Notre Dame’s second-half push begins here. The Irish are also 11-3-1 at home.
ND 3, NU 2
Jim’s pick: As strong as Northeastern has been, I think home ice matters a lot in this series.
ND 3, NU 2

Maine at New Hampshire
Dave’s pick: Insane pick number two: I’m going with the Black Bears despite their 0-7-2 road record. I just like the way they’ve been playing, other than that loss to BC (and I give everyone a Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free card against the Eagles).
Maine 3, UNH 2 (OT)
Jim’s pick: Here is where Dave and I will disagree. UNH will be as hungry as imaginable after the way last weekend went at home against Union. Not to say that Maine won’t be hungry, but home ice is my deciding factor.
UNH 3, Maine 1

Merrimack at Massachusetts
Dave’s pick: I was all set to instinctively go with a home-team split in this series, but I can’t get over UMass losing at home to a 6-15-1 AIC team while the Warriors were splitting with fourth-ranked Quinnipiac. Is this Insane Pick Number 3? Especially since it means I’ve gone with the road team on four of the five Friday night contests?
MC 2, UMass 1
Jim’s pick: I think UMass can come out with a win here. If I’m wrong, I let Dave right back into this race. If I’m right, it’s lights out!
UMass 3, MC 1

Saturday, Jan. 12

Vermont at Boston University
Dave’s pick: Sorry, but I’m not picking BU until the results change, especially when matched against a 12-8-3 Vermont team that has a winning road record.
UVM 4, BU 3
Jim’s pick: I can’t say it any better myself.
UVM 3, BU 1

Providence at Massachusetts-Lowell
Dave’s pick: I’m going with the River Hawks sweeping for the reasons mentioned above. But I wouldn’t be shocked at any outcome in this series.
UML 2, PC 1
Jim’s pick: Lowell has been a better road team than a home team this season. And though I like Providence for the split, I’ve had such bad luck calling splits that I’ll go out on the limb with a River Hawks sweep.
UML 3, PC 2

Northeastern at Notre Dame
Dave’s pick: Is it me or is this an exceptionally brutal week for picks? I’m going with the Irish sweep even though the Huskies have proven me wrong before.
ND 3, NU 2
Jim’s pick: I’m not picking splits, right? Well, maybe not.
NU 4, ND 2

Massachusetts at Merrimack
Dave’s pick: Finally, a pick I have total confidence in.  Uh-oh. I know what that means.
MC 3, UMass 1
Jim’s pick: Merrimack does play well at home. And another split pick. Kill me now.
MC 4, UMass 1

New Hampshire at Maine
Dave’s pick: I just can’t figure out UNH. It’s utter insanity to pick Maine to sweep a team as good as the Wildcats, but this is my week of insanity.
Maine 3, UNH 2
Jim’s pick: Okay, make that three split picks in a row. Honestly, my gut say tie here, but that will never be my pick.
Maine 4, UNH 2

Boston College at Penn State
Dave’s pick: I’d bet the ranch on this one.
BC 6, PSU 1
Jim’s pick: As Dave said, bet the ranch, particularly the way that BC’s offense is clicking right now.
BC 5, PSU 1

Opening a gap, two teams with lost weekends and stealing two points

These are the three things I think I learned this weekend.

1. The regular season title is Boston College’s to lose.

The Eagles created more separation at the top of the Hockey East standings, defeating Boston University and Maine, while no other league team picked up four points in the standings. With a 10-1-1 Hockey East record, they now hold a six-point lead over their closest competitor.

Massachusetts-Lowell looks like the one team that could threaten BC, in part because those two teams appear to be the class of the league and also because the River Hawks are the one contender that not only holds three games in hand on BC but also plays the Eagles twice late in the season.

2. New Hampshire and Boston University were the only teams to lose twice on the weekend.

A couple of years ago, I’d have had a tough time imagining the writing of that last sentence. But it’s the new reality.

New Hampshire got swept by sixth-ranked Union, which is no disgrace and also has no effect on the Hockey East standings. But it does drop the Wildcats to a 1-8 record against Top 10 teams. They’ve done considerably better against teams ranked 11th-20th, but until they prove otherwise, it looks like there’s a ceiling on how far this team can go.

For BU, the talk isn’t about ceilings but floors.  The Terriers’ two losses this weekend came at the hands of BC and Lowell, so those were four lost points in the standings. It’s almost gotten to the point of kicking a team when it’s down, but the Terriers’ performance in the first period against Lowell spoke volumes. They were outshot 19-2.

Can anyone recall the last time BU ranked ninth in Hockey East scoring this late in the season?  I can’t.

And now that top defensemen Matt Grzelcyk is reportedly out for the season, the outlook appears even more grim.  Unless the Terriers start winning, this may be the last I discuss their plight.

3. Northeastern stole an important two points on Friday.

The Huskies moved into second place with a 3-2 win over Vermont that defied logic. They were outshot 48-19, and after two periods they led 1-0 despite being outshot 34-11.

Of course, there was some logic to the win. Clay Witt has been a revelation in goal this season — a save percentage of .943! — and he was a stud in net on this night. Additionally, Braden Pimm, who scored the go-ahead goal in the second period, may be the least appreciated 15-goal scorer in college hockey.

That said, since Vermont won the following evening, the Catamounts have to be kicking themselves over the lost opportunity, especially since the loss counted as a league game and the win did not.

Hockey East picks – Jan. 17-21

Here I was thinking I had an awful week of picks last week. Until I realized that Dave was equally as bad.

Jim last week: 6-4-1
Dave last week: 6-4-1
Jim to-date: 102-51-20
Dave to-date: 98-55-20

Friday, January 16

Boston University at Boston College
Jim’s pick: Though they say throw out the records when these two teams meet, when the records are this different I can’t do as such.
BC 4, BU 2
Dave’s pick: If BU were playing better, throwing out the records just might make some sense but not  now.
BC 5, BU 2

Vermont at Northeastern
Jim’s pick: I’ve been impressed by both of these teams thus far but think home ice could be the difference here.
NU 3, UVM 2
Dave’s pick: Agreed, even on the score, although I feel like I’m oh-for-the-season with the Huskies.
NU 3, UVM 2

Maine at Massachusetts-Lowell
Jim’s pick: If Lowell wasn’t coming off a loss, I might be tempted to pick against them. But this River Hawks team should be hungry enough to win on home ice.
UML 3, Maine 1
Dave’s pick: I’ve liked what I’ve seen from Maine, and Lowell has been more inconsistent than the juggernaut we saw last year, but I’m still going with the River Hawks.
UML 3, Maine 2 (OT)

Providence at Colorado College
Jim’s pick: I have a feeling this series is going to be a split. But I’ve been burned really bad calling splits this season so I’m picking both for the Friars.
PC 4, CC 2
Dave’s pick: Too bad.  I wish Jimmy went with a split because I’ll be stunned if the Friars don’t sweep the 2-15-3 Tigers. (Even though PC has only a tie in its last four games.)
PC 5, CC 2

Lake Superior at Notre Dame
Jim’s pick: LSSU is a better team than most think. But Notre Dame, especially at home, is darn good too.
ND 3, LSSU 2
Dave’s pick: I’ve been disappointed in the Irish this year. I mean, 3-5-1 in league play is far from what I expected. But only a tough-looking schedule down the stretch keeps me from thinking they won’t crank it up a notch.
ND 4, LSSU 2

Merrimack at Quinnipiac
Jim’s pick: Nothing thus far tells me that Merrimack has the weapons to beat an excellent Quinnipiac squad.
QU 4, MC 2
Dave’s pick: I spent all least year doubting Quinnipiac. Not again.
QU 4, MC 1

Union at New Hampshire
Jim’s pick: This series should tell us a lot about how good a team New Hampshire is. And again, though thinking a split, I think a sweep will be my pick.
UNH 3, Union 2
Dave’s pick: I cry unfair! Jimmy has taken my patented “should be a split, but I’m picking a sweep” mantra and stolen it. That makes this monkey see, monkey do.
UNH 4, Union 3

Saturday, January 18

Maine at Boston College
Jim’s pick: After how much Maine impressed me last weekend, it’s hard to think I’d pick the Black Bears to lose twice. But that’s exactly what I’m doing.
BC 3, Maine 2
Dave’s pick: Same here. BC is just too good, especially considering the venue.
BC 4, Maine 2

Boston University at Massachusetts-Lowell
Jim’s pick: On paper this should be all River Hawks. I’m betting with paper.
UML 3, BU 2
Dave’s pick: Not to be harsh, but if the Terriers were a stock, I’d be selling for whatever I could get.
UML 4, BU 1

Quinnipiac at Merrimack
Jim’s pick: Even on home ice, I don’t think Merrimack can beat QU.
QU 4, MC 2
Dave’s pick: Unfortunately, I can’t disagree. I’d really like an easier foe so I could go with the Warriors, but not against Quinnipiac.
QU 3, MC 2

Lake Superior at Notre Dame
Jim’s pick: Another home sweep for the Irish.
ND 4, LSSU 2
Dave’s pick: Grrrr.  I can’t make up any ground matching Jim’s picks, but I just don’t see Notre Dame losing this game.
ND 3, LSSU 2

Vermont at Northeastern (NC)
Jim’s pick: Though I feel like Vermont could win, I’m not confident enough to pick that way.
NU 2, UVM 1
Dave’s pick: Do I pick Vermont just to differ with Jim?  No, I’m going with the picks I wrote down before seeing his choices. I do think it’ll be a higher-scoring game than Jim does.
NU 4, UVM 3 (OT)

Providence at Colorado College
Jim’s pick: My heart says split, my pick says sweep.
PC 4, CC 3
Dave’s pick: I wish Jimmy had gone with his heart, because every molecule of my body is screaming PC sweep here. (If not, the Friars’ current mini-slump becomes a cause for concern.)
PC 4, CC 1

Union at New Hampshire
Jim’s pick: See above. Ditto.
UNH 4, Union 3
Dave’s pick: Well, I’m not picking against BC on Tuesday, so this is my last opportunity to disagree with Jim. If I don’t, then this will be the first time in a  very long time (ever?) that we’ve totally matched picks.  On my sheet of paper, I had UNH sweeping, but I’m feeling boxed in here so… I’m going to reverse course just to disagree. But I don’t feel good about this….
Union 3, UNH 2 (OT)

Tuesday, January 21

Boston College at Merrimack
Jim’s pick: Things don’t get much easier for the Warriors.
BC 4, MC 2
Dave’s pick: Agreed.  I can’t pick against the Eagles these days.
BC 5, MC 2

 

Rain delays, panic buttons and a sign of life

Yes, you can have a rain delay in hockey. That leads my list of three things I learned this week in Hockey East:

1. If you play hockey at a baseball stadium, expect a rain delay

Rain delay isn’t a term that hockey fans are familiar with, but on Saturday those in attendance at Frozen Fenway had the unique opportunity to experience such a delay. Thunder, lightning and heavy rains interrupted the first period of the game between Boston University and Maine at Fenway Park as part of the final game of Frozen Fenway. Credit to all those involved who worked extremely hard to get the ice surface back to playing shape in the delay that lasted 1 hour, 9 minutes. At the end of the day, somehow both hockey games were completed with Maine and Northeastern coming away winners.

2. Time to push the panic button at BU?

Anyone who tolerated the rain delay at Fenway now know that there is cause for concern for Boston University. The Terriers fell behind 5-0 to Maine before rallying to get within two before surrendering two empty-netters for a 7-3 final. The BU defense looked pedestrian for much of the first half of the game as Maine scored at will, including four first period goals. BU is 2-5-1 in Hockey East and sits in 10th place. There are still 12 league games left for BU, but this is quickly becoming a lost season for the struggling Terriers and first-year head coach David Quinn.

3. Merrimack back to winning ways

Merrimack had plenty of reason for concern heading to Clarkson for a two-game series this weekend. The Warriors entered the weekend with just a single win in their last 10 games (1-6-3) and were headed on the road to face a very good team in 11th-ranked Clarkson. A rally on Friday night to tie the game was spoiled as Merrimack fell, 3-2. But Saturday’s 4-0 shutout provided a lot of good signs for the struggling Warriors club. For starters, the Warriors potted four goals (one was an empty netter) and two of those came on the power play, something that needs to click if Merrimack is to have any success. On top of that, Rasmus Tirronen finished the game with a 34-save shutout. It is still a long-way back for the Warriors, but Saturday’s win could be the jump start this team needs.

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